Atlanta United’s five-game win stream ended on Sunday night with a disappointing loss to the New York Red Bulls, who were forced to play two-thirds of the match with only 10 men. The hosts nicked a second half goal and frustrated a toothless Atlanta attack to pick up the full points. Here are some thoughts on a bitter end to a good run of form.
All Good Things End
This last month of results have been fun. Winning cures everything. Even when the wins aren’t pretty, the positive results allow you to ignore any and all back things around you. With the 1-0 loss to the Red Bulls on Sunday, it felt like the mask slipped off and revealed some of that ugliness still remains.
Atlanta United’s defending over the course of this run has been phenomenal. Yet, we’re now approaching three months of play and the attack has still not figured it out. They’ve shown glimpses, like against Sporting Kansas City. But, for the most part, any resemblance of attacking presence has consisted of scratching and clawing for every result. A goal here, a goal there. The team is creating chances, but the goals aren’t coming like we’ve come to expect.
An opponent receiving a red card 30 minutes in against the Five Stripes would’ve been a death sentence for that team in 2017 or 2018. However, even at halftime, up a man, it never felt like Atlanta would find the net against a defense packed in tight.
Never gonna break down this team when they’re packed in. Feels like a disappointing 0-0 or worse.— Rob Snark (@RobUsry) May 19, 2019
Worse, indeed. We all know the excuses. So many matches in such a little time frame. Yes, it was a tough ask. Coming into the match, I would’ve gladly taken a point out of Red Bull Arena. But those excuses went out the window with Tim Parker’s dismissal. This was a Red Bulls team without their best goal scorer, one of the best midfielders and a U.S. international center back. This was an Atlanta United team with the South American Player of the Year and the reigning MLS Golden Boot winner and MVP going against a shorthanded team. Grabbing at least a point should’ve been a formality. Letting the Red Bulls grab all three seems almost tragic. When Brek Shea creates your best chance up a player for an hour, you might have an attacking problem.
For as good as this string of wins has been, this team still has problems, especially in the attacking end. Pity Martinez scored a great goal and then sort of disappeared for the next few games, no more so than this one. Josef Martinez looks as unsure of himself as we’ve ever seen him in Atlanta. Tito Villalba’s effectiveness seems to have disappeared completely. I’m willing to give Julian Gressel a pass for his disappointing performance. He had no business making the trip up to Vancouver. He should’ve been the very first player in the squad that you rest for that match, yet they brought him all the way up there and even put him out on the field. He’s battled nagging injuries and has looked exhausted the past three matches. No wonder he wasn’t much of a help in this one.
It’s sad that the most energy and fire the team showed came after the final whistle.
Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining this much after one loss, especially after a five-game winning streak. But that’s just how bad this result looks and feels. On to the next.